Date of Degree
Other Film and Media Studies | Political Theory | Politics and Social Change
Anaesthetics, Reification, Marxism, Frankfurt School, Profane Illumination, Intoxicants
This inquiry examines the ways in which the psychedelic nature of film, as posited by Walter Benjamin, has the potential to precipitate class consciousness and lead to humanity’s emancipation from anaesthetizing capitalist forces. We first explore Benjamin’s relationship to, and understanding of, Marxist thought with a particular focus on György Lukács’ theory of reification and Marx’s fetish character of the commodity which Benjamin ultimately believes lead to an erosion of the human sensorium and the destruction of human nature. As such, we explore Benjamin’s revolutionary aesthetic theory which seeks the reversal of these erosive capitalist forces and the redemption of the human sensory system. It is through this aesthetic redemption that Benjamin posits the transcendence of the capitalist mode of production. This inquiry explores what appears to be the source of Benjamin’s redemptive aesthetic theory – the psychedelic drug experience – and traces it to the apex of Benjaminian thought whereby the work of art, with a particular focus on artistic form, is viewed as the primary source for humanity’s redemption. Though largely overshadowed by Theodor Adorno’s theory of the culture industry, we conclude that Walter Benjamin’s revolutionary redemptive aesthetic theory is just as valid today as when it was produced in the first half of the twentieth century. That being said, the artistic form which revolutionary art must utilize in order to be endowed with the “correct” political tendency appears to be radically different today than it was at the moment of Benjamin’s untimely death in 1940 due to the incessant march of technology in the years since. The final section of this inquiry explores the modern artistic forms which, in the Benjaminian sense, revolutionary forces ought to utilize in order to drive back the continued degradation of the human sensorium and redeem humanity thereby opening the possibility for the transcendence of the capitalist mode of production.
Redlins, Alexander C., "Aesthetic Redemption: Psychedelia, Film, and Walter Benjamin’s Sensory Revolution" (2020). CUNY Academic Works.